Our road trip to national parks

We’re into our second week of a road trip. The main purpose is to see many small national park units.

Throughout our working life (and beyond), we’ve been to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and several other Western National Park icons. For a long time, we only had two weeks of vacations. We would fly out from the East coast and spend our precious vacation on hiking in the Western parks.

But we missed many smaller units. Now we’re taking the trip that we should have taken 45 years ago after we got out of Graduate School. Instead we got our degrees and went to work the next week. Ironically, we wouldn’t have hiked as much or had been as adventurous then. And of course, we hadn’t yet seen the “top of the pops” parks. We’re making up for lost time.

Our goal is to really see the parks. While you can spend weeks hiking in the Smokies and not understand it all, most people zip and out of national monuments and historic sites. Not us. I really need to understand why this piece of land became a park.

We packed our car with clothes, our low boots and high boots, a cooler, food, and day hiking equipment. We’re not camping or RVing.We’re staying in lodging in the park, if available, a tiny house rental, a hostel, and in plain motels.

We’re spending a lot of time on the road. At home, I’ve looked and made notes on all the units that we were going to visit. But every evening, I go over the park’s website to refresh my memory.

When we get to a site, a ranger usually asks how much time we have. “We have the whole day,” I say. We’re here until we feel we’ve “done it” properly.

The picture above is of us at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument outside of Amarillo, Texas. The site, preserved in 1965, holds the flint quarries of prehistoric Indians. It looks like a moonscape.

The highlight is a one-mile walk which must be done with a ranger. Obviously, the park service wants to protect the resource and make sure that visitors not take away the flint.

Our group consisted of a local girl scout troop with their leaders. Ranger Gigi was so concerned about everyone’s ability to walk a half-mile to the top of the ridge and back down.

She was also worried that we (Lenny and I) would have to put up with the children. This is not the first time that rangers wondered if we were going to be bothered by kids. Do we look that old and fragile? I am so delighted to see children in parks.

She was also very strict in not having anyone get one inch off the marked trail. “There might be rattlesnakes,” she said a couple of times. Rattlesnakes!! That can only bring fear and loathing into the hearts of visitors and make them afraid of “nature”. But we all followed her rules. After all, she was the one with the uniform.


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